Sometimes small things tell big stories. This is one of those... although the small thing isn't necessarily all that small.

constant training
memory course

When I was 12 years old, I was living in northern Maine and going to school on Loring AFB Base. I found myself having problems fitting into the process of school after not going to classes for over a year while in Kansas City. I thought maybe I'd lost my edge mentally because I was having problems concentrating and doing class work.

I'd read an article talking about memory courses, and asked my parents if they'd buy me one. Always willing to help in any way when it came to learning, they bought me this particular memory course.

It came with 9 pamphlets of information, along with a guide on how to use it. The guide obviously said start with the first book and do everything it tells you to do, and when you get to the end of the course you'll have a great memory.

The first book taught the concept of relating things you want to remember with words you create that gives you visual stimulation, thus will help you remember anything you want to remember. It started off with 9 words for you to remember, and you had to associate those 9 words with images the guide gave you and memorize them.

The guide then said to try to remember these 9 words and what they were associated with for a few days. If you could do that, then you were almost ready to move to the next book.

On the last page of the guide, it said that the process of having a good memory wasn't only memorizing things but learning how to forget keywords and create new ones so the image associations would grow stronger and be more familiar for us to proceed in life. It said to take a week or two to forget the 9 keywords it gave you before proceeding to the 2nd guide.

It's 46 years later... those 9 words are tea, Noah, May, ray, law, jaw, key, fee, pea...

Because I never forgot the words, I never started the 2nd book. Strangely enough though, once I realized I'd memorized those 9 words, I told myself it wasn't my memory that was the issue, it was the process I had to relearn. After that I felt better.

I kept the course... you never know, right?

Memory is a funny thing. I've known a lot of people in leadership positions who believe that telling someone something once should be enough and that once they're past that point it's incompetence that keeps others from remembering things. Yet, when they're called on something they've forgotten they always have an excuse why; the definition of a double standard if I've ever heard one.

It's one reason I always advocate having multiple meetings with employees during the year. Problems arise when leaders assume that everyone knows everything about what's going on.

At this point in my life I can honestly say I've forgotten more than I've ever known previously. Even so, when my memory was pretty good there were things I just couldn't take in... sometimes things I actually cared about.

I use myself as a teaching tool for others in many ways; sometimes it's good things, sometimes it's troubling things. I figure if there are a lot of things I should be remembering but can't that I'm not the only one.

As the course tried to teach me, reinforcement is a very powerful tool. It's something that shouldn't be overlooked by anyone in leadership; there's too much at risk for employees, the leaders and the companies they work for.

Don't disregard the part about forgetting things like I did though; when policies change, memory needs to change as well. Think about that one for a while.